Christina Elangwe was promised an education in the United States, but when she arrived from her native Cameroon she was imprisoned as a domestic slave in the District of Columbia.
Bopha was 17 and living in a small Cambodian village when she got married. Her husband immediately took her to a “hotel” in another village, where she was forced to sell sex until she became so sick with AIDS that she was thrown out on the street.
Khan was trafficked from Laos to an embroidery factory in Thailand when she was only 11 years old. She and other child laborers were forced to work 14 hours a day, and were physically abused when they protested or complained.
Human trafficking — the buying and selling of human beings — is far from a thing of the past. Free the Slaves estimates that over 27 million men, women, and children are enslaved in the world today, being forced to labor in fields, factories, sweatshops, brothels, battlefields, and private homes.
People are trafficked within countries and across borders, and they are trafficked to and from almost everywhere in the world — the Polaris Project estimates that 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States every year, in addition to thousands of citizens being trafficked within the country.
In early January, President Obama declared January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Today, January 11th, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
When it comes to raising your own awareness, an internet connection will give you stacks of resources.
- Browse a website: HumanTrafficking.org, Free The Slaves, Polaris Project, and the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited, and Missing Persons are all sources of valuable information and suggestions for taking action.
- Read a report: For an in-depth look at human trafficking all over the world or in one specific place, you might want to check out the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2010, or read some of Human Rights Watch’s reporting on human trafficking.
- Watch a video: At TEDIndia, Sunitha Krishnan describes fighting sex slavery, especially the trafficking of children for sex, in her home country. (The link includes a transcript.)
- Read a book: Try searching the catalogs of your local library for “human trafficking” or “modern slavery.” I’m bumping two books to the top of my reading list: John Bowe’s Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Global Economy, and Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which isn’t just about human trafficking but discusses the trafficking of women in several different countries.
- Start a conversation: use today as an opening to bring up the scale of modern day slavery and human trafficking to one other person, and point them to some of these resources.
If you have more suggestions for articles, videos, books, websites, or other resources where we can get informed, please leave them in the comments!
Make Choices That Fight Human Trafficking
There are some clear-cut ways to fight human trafficking: support an anti-trafficking organization, and support anti-trafficking legislation locally, nationally, and internationally.
If you suspect a case of human trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888 to report a tip and to get more information.
Today is also a good time for us to choose some aspect of our lifestyles to examine to be sure we’re not helping create a demand for human trafficking. For instance, I’m probably touching either my laptop or my mug of tea for the majority of my waking hours. Today, I’m going to investigate which brands of tea are completely fair trade (I know one of my favorites, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, is!), and I’m going to start trying to figure out where the metals in my computer come from.
It can be overwhelming to think of the ways in which our lives might be supporting human trafficking — food and electronics and clothing and diamonds and chocolate — but by changing our lifestyles, even a little, we can decrease the demand for the enormous business of trafficking humans.
This photo was taken from cdogstar's flickr, and is reused with thanks under Creative Commons licensing.